CDRO CONDEMNS THE CULTURE OF FAKE ENCOUNTER BY THE LAW ENFORCING AGENCIES

Press Release, 12th July 2020

CDRO CONDEMNS THE CULTURE OF FAKE ENCOUNTER BY THE LAW ENFORCING AGENCIES

CDRO, in unequivocal terms, considers the killing of the main accused VikasDubey of Kanpur on 10th July2020 by the STF on the way via Shivpuri in MP and Jhansi, as cold-blooded murder. All pieces of evidence, as emerged from various sources, lead us to conclude that the killing of VikasDubey, who was involved in the incident of killing of 8 police personnel in Bikri village (UP) in the intervening night of July 2 and 3, is another instance of fake encounter. Even the veteran top cops have questioned the truthfulness of the police version.

CDRO also holds that his killing and his five aides earlier by the police of UP are intended to cover up the unholy nexus of politicians, police and gangsters over the decades. Questions relating to VikasDubey’s reign of impunity were not even answered and will not be answered because of these killings. It is also well-known that this sort of staged-encounter is not happening for the first time. An identical fake encounter took place in Hyderabad in December 2019, and a huge outrage compelled the government to set up an inquiry committee. Still, no report has been published.

It is pertinent to note that since the 1970s, the practice of extra-judicial executions and forced disappearances have been carried out unabatedly by the law enforcing agencies and military in India and Latin America.The method is to silence the critics, opposition and revolutionaries physically. This practice has been continued despite the strict prohibition prescribed by in all international laws against the government’s naked involvement in or failure to protect from arbitrary deprivations of life. This prohibition is consistent with the general principles of law, recognised by the civilised nations. Dubey’s killing as it stands out to be a complete violation of all civilised rules of law, it must be condemned in the strongest terms.

CDRO observes that in India, a culture of impunity has been enjoyed by the police and military forces. This culture is further encouraged and institutionalised by bizarre support from the ruling political parties at the states and the Centre. Under the direct patronage of the present UP government headed by Yogi Adityanath, the police have carriedout 2,273 fake encounters in eight districts of UP with impunity. This culture of “instant justice” promotes lawlessness at the administrative as well as social levels. Therefore, CDRO believes that there is an urgent need to make the police force more accountable to the community.

In this overall context, CDRO demands:

  1. A complete end to the culture of fake encounter killings and all types of physical elimination of all the citizens including, political opponents and criminals
  2. Upholding of the rule of law and all constitutional and international laws signed by the Government of India
  3. Setting up a judicial inquiry committee to probe the killings of VikasDubey and five of his associate.
  4. To initiate a criminal case against the STF team under Section 302 and 34  of the IPC
  5. Report of the judicial committee must be published within a stipulated time-frame
  6. All the STF personnel involved in the killingbe arrested and all the witnesses must be given adequate protection

V.Raghunath (CLC,Telangana),KrantiChaitanya (CLC, Andhra Pradesh), Prit Pal Singh (AFDR, Punjab), and Tapas Chakraborty (APDR, West Bengal) Coordinators of CDRO.

Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West Bengal; BandiMukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Andhra Pradesh); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR TamilNadu); Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); ManabAdhikarSangramSamiti (MASS, Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (JCDR, Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR, Haryana), Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi; Janhastakshep (Delhi)

Coal privatization and commercial mining should be stopped in the name of outsourcing

Image may contain: text that says 'STOP PRIVATISATION IN COAL SECTOR CIVIL LIBERTIES COMMITTEE TELANGANA TELANGANA ANDHRA PRADESH SU SUPPORT JULY 2,3,4 COAL MINES STRIKE Government to Auction 41 Coal Blocks for Commercial Mining'

Press Statement

29-6-2020, Hyderabad

Civil Liberties Committee, Telangana fully supports the 72-hour strike by four and a half million Coal Mineworkers across India and Singareni Coal Mines on July 2, 3 & 4, 2020 against privatization of Coal Mines.

At the Call of National Trade Unions INTUC, AITUC, BMS, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC) and National Federations , the Civil Liberties Committee Telangana fully supports the strike.
Here in the state of Telangana as part of a nationwide strike let the 72-hour strike also be successful on July 2,3 & 4 at Singareni as the BJP’s Narendra Modi government has decided to privatize coal mines.
The state government of Jharkhand also has filed a PIL(public Interest Litigation ) in the supreme court against to the privatisation of coal mines and commercial coal mining
The e-auction of 41 coal blocks in the country was launched on the 18th of this month June.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, opposing these proposals.
Telengana rashtra samithi (TRS) Workers Union (TBGKS), on its own, has given call for only one-day strike on 2 nd July in protest of this privatization. The nation-wide national trade unions, the Revolutionary Trade Unions and the Singareni workers leading the strike, have also called on the TBGKS Union for participate in the remaining two days to support the strike on July 3 & 4 .
The Civil Liberties Committee ,Telangana is also urging The Telangana Coal Workers Union (TBGKS) to take part in the July 2, 3, &4 ,2020, 72-hour nationwide coal workers’ strike with integrity.

Demands…

1…..41 Coal blocks bidding must be canceled.

2..All 100% FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) permits in coal mining must be cancelled

3…. Coal privatization and commercial mining should be stopped in the name of outsourcing.

4….Coal India and SCCL contract workers must be paid high power wages.

5 … Clause 9.3.0… 9.4.0…., 9.5.0 should be implemented in the National Coal Workers Wage Board Agreement.
It is also also demanded that halt the changing of 44 labor laws in to 4 labor codes.
The Civil Liberties Committee has extended its support to 72-hour strike on July 2, 3,& 4, 2020, demanding that scrap all endorsed agreements of the natural resources and resources of this country to Corporates and Multi National Corporations to protect workers from privatization of coal mining in our public sector.

  1. Professor Gaddam Laxman, President,
    Civil liberties Committee ,Telangana.
  2. N. Narayana Rao, General Secretary, Civil liberties Committee Telangana.
    3 Madana kumaraswamy, Joint secretary ,
    Civil liberties Committee Telangana.

TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE- PERSECUTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

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We cannot forget 2018.  In fact that the violence in Bhima-Koregaon in Maharashtra on January 2018 was a planned and organized by the RSS and other Hindutva outfits in order to foil Edgar Parishat, a conglomeration of Dalits, Bahujan, and minorities who gathered in a single platform. The Parishad proclaimed to fight against fascist Hindutva forces and reclaim Constitution and its ideals. In the months of June and August, the Maharastra Police raided selectively the houses of human rights and social activists across the country. Without following the legal procedure they had searched and seized the computer hard disks and electronic gadgets. For instance, they barged into the Anand Teltumbde’ s quarter in  Goa IIT  campus.  Eleven activists from different states have been linked, on the basis of electronic evidence, to the so-called Bhimakoregaon violence/conspiracy case and charged them under various provisions of IPC and Unlawful Activities (prevention) ACT. Initially, the investigation was carried on by Mahrastra police and now the National Investigation Agency has taken over the job. One can understand that the transfer of investigation from the Maharastra government to the Central Government was because of the change of government in Maharastra. The BJP at the center is monitoring the investigation through NIA which is absolutely under its control.

 However, even after eighteen months, the investigation is still going on and we do not know when the trial will begin. The activist has approached the Supreme Court, concerned High courts and the trial court for bail but their petitions were repeatedly rejected on some pretext or other. It seems that the judges are obediently following the instructions of NIA and the prosecution and denying bail. It is of course the judges are taking shelter under UAPA and its provisions regarding bail. Section 43 D (5) of the Act is very draconian which confers wide discretionary power on the judges for consideration of bail. The provision categorically provides that ‘if the judge satisfies himself if there is a prima facie case or reasonable grounds that the accused has committed an offence, and then there is no need to grant bail. This provision is against the cardinal principle of the criminal justice system ie., the presumption of innocence of the accused. The guilt of the accused must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt by conducting a fair trial. It is regrettable to note that the Supreme Court like a warning instructed both Anand Teltumbde and Goutam Navalakha to surrender before NIA on April 14, DR. Ambedkar”s birthday. 
The Supreme Court taking cognizance of Covid-19 pandemic and the danger of its spreading in our congested prisons, directed the State Governments to release   , both convicts and under trial prisoners on parole or interim bail. There was another order from the Supreme Court that its directions are not mandatory but the State Governments can take a decision on the guidelines of the High Power Committee on case by case, finally with the approval of the concerned courts. The Supreme Court further, the accused who has committed the offence for which the punishment is more than seven years, and charged under UAPA are not eligible for parole or interim bail. But the Maharashtra Government extended the benefit even to the accused in UAPA who are above 60 year, since they are vulnerable to  COVID-19 infection. In spite of these relaxations, the bail petitions of the activists have been repeatedly rejected by the NIA special courts.
Bhima-Koregaon violence/conspiracy case is not just an ordinary criminal case, it is a political trial. The BJP Government does not merely wish to bring these activists to trial and get them convicted by a court but it is waging a war against them. In the past, those intellectuals and social activists who opposed the Hindutva agenda were brutally killed by outfits organized by Hindutva forces. Now the activists who have been implicated in the Bhima-Koregoan case are subjected to humiliation and mental harassment. The real conspiracy is to silence and politically persecute them. The persecution of intellectuals and activists at present reminds us the mental frame of the British rulers and law enforcement agencies towards the freedom fighters. The speech of Jinnah in the Central legislature opposing the Hunger strike bill and supporting Bhagat Singh and his fellow inmates as political prisoners is noteworthy. He said:
“we will pursue every possible course, every possible method, but we will see that you are sent either to  Gallows or transportation for life and in the meantime  We will not treat them as decent men”
In the last week, despite the deteriorating health of revolutionary poet Varvara Rao, the behavior of  NIA and Prison Authorities was so inhuman that they did not permit him to have a video conference with his wife and family members to know about his health condition. The prison authorities did not even allow his wife to meet him. It is more reprehensible to notice that the trial judge sentencing GNSaibaba to life imprisonment has written in his judgment that ‘although GN Saibaba is physically challenged, he is mentally very strong and powerful and he is a think tank’. The judge deplored that ‘his hands are tied by the law, otherwise he would have awarded him the death sentence. Is it not a judicial prejudice with vengeance. The Bhima-Koregaon conspiracy case clearly reveals that how the state is manipulating its politics with the law and how the legal system – law enforcement agencies, prosecution, and courts have been serving as mere agents of the political system and political agendas manipulating the law. We now witness how the UAPA and the sedition law are being extensively used by the State to suppress the dissent and to dismantle agitations against the CAA and other democratic movements.
In fact, the BJP Government is waging war against those who have been opposing Hindutva ideology and its pro-business and anti-people policies. It cannot anymore tolerate the politicization of Dalits, minorities, and Adivasis for democratic and secular values. It is high time for us to unite and fight for democracy, human rights, and justice. We must demand the immediate release of all the activists who were falsely implicated in the Bhima-Koregaon case and to repeal UAPA. 

Prof.S.Seshaiah,Convener ,Civil Liberties committee (AP & Telangana State)

Death of father-son duo in Tamil Nadu in police custody – A CPDR (TN) report

“Their cries weren’t heard just by us standing outside, but the entire town.” – Manimaran, Jayaraj’s Friend

“Imagine, if a man doesn’t even have his front and backside. That is how my brother looked when his friends saw his dead body. … I didn’t have the heart to go inside and see him. My friends saw how he was soaked in blood. And in the end, they just killed them brutally.” Percy, Benniks’ Sister

[Source: https://www.thequint.com/news/india/custodial-death-tamil-nadu-sathankulam-thoothukudi-police-brutality-jayaraj]

The incidence and the arrest

Friday, 19th June had begun like any other day for a 31-year old Benniks, a mobile shop owner, in the small town of Sathankulam in Thoothukudi district of TamilNadu. Previous night his father, Jayaraj (59-year-old) was pulled up by the local police for keeping the shop open fifteen minutes beyond the stipulatedtime of 8 pm enforced by the government of TamilNadu. The shop was closed immediately, and the matter was thought to be over. Little did Benniks and his father knew that how things will shape later in the day on 19th June!

In the evening of 19th June, at around 7.45 pm, SI. Balakrishnan, along with some policemen, came to Bennikss’ shop and a verbalargument had started between Jayaraj and the police leading to arrest of Jayaraj.Benniks, who was in the shop at that time, questioned the action of the police. At the suggestion of the police, Benniks and some of his friends rushed to the Sathankulam police station.

When Benniks demanded an explanation, he was hit by a policeman, and he could escape the blow due to the timely intervention of his friend. However, his friends were then sent outside the police station where a few lawyers had also gathered. They could hear the beating up of Benniks first and then of Jayaraj, and this ordeal continued till midnight as different police officials took turns to carry out the torture. Later that night, around 10 pm an FIR was filed by SI P Raghuganesh based on the charges made by Head constable S Muthuraj and Constable Murugan. It was mentioned that the father-son duo had kept the shop open till 9:15 pm on 19th June and they had threatened the police from discharging their duties. However, it is evident that the duo was held inside the police station at that time!

Based on the FIR, they were booked under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 353 (use of force to deter public servant from duty), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), and 506(2) (Punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.

The journey from the police station andremand by the Judicial Magistratetill their eventual death

When we saw the two, they were dripping with blood and badly hurt. Their clothes were soaked in blood. Then at the hospital, they were questioned by a couple of cops. They didn’t even have the energy to speak up. We had put a blanket on the seat where they were sitting so that they don’t slip away with all the blood.” said Manimaran. (Source: https://www.thequint.com/news/india/custodial-death-tamil-nadu-sathankulam-thoothukudi-police-brutality-jayaraj).

Both Benniks and Jayaraj bled profusely being beaten up mercilessly by the police personnel as well as police volunteers as mentioned by the witnesses. At around 7 am in the next day, the duo was taken to the hospital. The bleeding was profuse.Even the police officers asked friends of Benniks and Jayaraj to get new dress as their clothes were visibly soaked with blood. Their blood pressures shot up so high that the two could not be producedin that condition before the Judicial Magistrate for three hours.

When the police produced the father-son duo before D.Saravanan, the Judicial Magistrate, the latter gave an automatic remand without caring for mandatory physical fitness of the people produced after being held overnight in police custody. It is alleged that the victims were kept at a distance of 10 feet from the Magistrate, and hence no physical observation was possible. They were sent to Kovilpatti sub-jail, some 100 km away from Santhankulam.

On the night of Monday, 22nd June Benniks died at the Kovilpatti Government Hospital after complaining of chest pain while Jayaraj expired in the wee hours in the following day.

Large-scale public outrage and response from different quarters

The custodial death of these two men has sparked massive outrage in TamilNadu. A large number of people, including shopkeepers and traders, staged a dharna in Santhankulam. Shops and commercial establishments were closed throughout TamilNadu on Wednesday (24th June) and Friday (26th June). Social media is full of detailed descriptions of the torture and condemnation against the killing. Different human rights organisations have termed this brutality as the worst form of state atrocity. Thoothukudi MP Kanimozhi wrote a complaint to the Director-General of Police calling this a serious violation of human rights and demanded stringent action against the policemen.

The Madras High Court has sought a report from the TamilNadu police on these double custodial deaths.A Madurai bench of the High Court, comprising of Justices P N Prakash and B Pugalendhi, instructed the police to inform the public about the suo-moto cognisance the court has taken of the deaths. The court ordered that the post-mortem of the deceased shall be conducted by a team of three doctors and the post-mortem process has to be video-recorded.

The police aredenying the custodial torture. However, understanding the public outrage, ArunBalagopalan, Superintendent, Thoothukudi informed the journalists that the two sub-inspectors and constables were placedunder suspension and the Inspector has been transferred to “wait-list”.

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami issued a statement condoling the deaths. He also announced a solatium of Rs 10 lakh each for Jeyaraj and Benniks. Kanimozhi has given the family a compensation of Rs 25 lakhs. AIADMK has also announced Rs 25 lakh ex-gratia.

CPDR-TN demands

Judging from all the information available, CPDR-TN finds this to be one of the most barbaric incidences of torture and custodial death in TamilNadu. Thoothukudi, which has been in the news in recent past (see CDRO’s factfinding report on police atrocities on anti-Sterlite protest in 2018 ), is once more in the news for police excesses. It shows the sad state of affairs there. Even overall, TamilNadu is one of the most notorious states in terms of police excesses.

According to ‘India: Annual Report on Torture 2018’, a report published by Asian Centre for Human Rights, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had received reports of 147 custodial deaths in 2018. In 2018, Tamil Nadu topped the list among southern states with 76 custodial deaths. (Source: https://www.dtnext.in/News/TopNews/2018/06/27011432/1077614/76-custodial-deaths-in-11-months-Tamil-Nadu-leads-.vpf). As pointed out by senior advocate, SudhaRamalingam, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows that, though judicial enquiries have been conducted for 12 cases in TamilNadu, charge-sheets have not been filed in any case, and there have been no arrests made (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/tn-saw-second-highest-custodial-deaths/articleshow/73219508.cms). This brutaltwin murder brings up the question that is the pandemic favouring an acceleration of the transformation of TamilNadu into a total police state?

We demand:

  1. TamilNadu government must transfer the cases Cr.no.312/2020 case, case registered over the death of Jayaraj and Benniksat KovilpattiEast police station, and the Cr.no649/2020, Cr.no.650/2020 to CB CID.
  2. A speedy and time-bound trial must be carried out as early signs of district police adopting a delaying tactic, in the name of COVID pandemic, is visible.
  3. It is clear that such a barbaric act cannot be the handiwork of only one or two persons. Hence, all police officials present in the police station, including the Inspector, should be immediately arrested.
  4. It is alleged that, at the time of beating up, volunteers of Friends of Police organisation were also present inside the police station and had taken part in the torture. Those volunteers who were present inside the police station should be arrested. Further, Friendsof Police is an unconstitutional and illegal body which acts as an extended arm of the police. Such an organisation should be disbanded.
  5. The medical examination report of the government doctor, who had given fitness certificate to Jayaraj and Benniks before they were produced before the Judicial Magistrate, must be made available to the public.
  6. The actions of Sathankulam Judicial Magistrateand Kovilpatti Prison authority need to be probed, and tillthe verdict is out, they should be put under suspension.

A Letter to The Honourable Chief Minister of the State of Maharashtra

25 June 2020
The Honourable Chief Minister of the State of Maharashtra
Mantralaya, Mumbai.
Respected Chief Minister,
We are the five petitioners who had approached the Supreme Court regarding the so-called ‘Bhirna-Koregaon case’ in September 2018, requesting that if the charges against the accused were persisted with,then there should be a Court-monitored probe into the matter (Romila Thapar & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Ors., Writ Petition 32319 of 2018). However, our petition was rejected by the Court through a majority 2-1 verdict.

At present, all eleven of the accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case are lodged in prisons in Maharashtra. All of them are either senior citizens or have serious co-morbidities, or both, that would place them at severe risk if they were infected by Covid-19. One of the detained persons, the poet Varavara Rao who is 81 years of age, suffered a collapse recently and was placed in the ICU. He continues to be in precarious health.

We are deeply concerned about the undue level of risk they are being exposed to which may easily prove fatal. The conditions under which they are lodged are extremely poor and provide no guarantee of their continued well-being. As the highest official of the state government you have absolute authority about where these prisoners can be lodged while awaiting trial.

We appeal to you therefore to remove the eleven accused – who are all well-known intellectuals and human rights advocates – from the overcrowded facilities in which they are currently being held and place them in safer environments. We urge that they be placed under house arrest, where they will continue to remain available to the justice system. Meanwhile their friends and families could take on the task of looking after
them and ensuring their well-being as best as possible.

The Covid-19 contagion is spreading across Maharashtra. Prisons, with their overcrowding and sub-optimal conditions, coupled with the age and co-morbidities of these prisoners may prove to be a death sentence.We appeal to you to take the humanitarian step of preventing the unnecessary exposure of elderly and well respected public persons to such an avoidable hazard.
We urge you to act on this matter at the earliest.
Yours sincerely,
Romila Thapar
on behalf of Prabhat Patnaik Devaki Jain Maja Daruwala Satish Deshpande
B- 23 Maharani Bagh,
New Delhi.

An open letter in the name of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Maharashtra

The Hon’ble Chief Minister

Maharashtra

25 June 2020

Subject: Urgent action needed towards inhuman conditions in Maharashtra jails

Dear Sir

As we mark the 45th anniversary of the day when emergency was imposed in the country and thousands of political dissenters were locked up in the prisons, we wish to bring to your notice the deplorable and abysmal condition of jails and quarantine facilities in Maharashtra. The conditions were recently flagged by Gautam Navlakha, a political prisoner accused under the infamous Bhima Koregaon case. Of those accused in this case, nine including Gautam Navlakha and Varvara Rao have been lodged in Taloja Central Prison in Navi Mumbai and two women political prisoners have been lodged at Byculla jail.

On 20 June 2020, Gautam Navlakha conveyed telephonically to his partner about his incarceration experience at a quarantine facility in Mumbai. He informed that there were approximately 350 inmates housed in the Namdar Gopal Krishna Gokhale High School in Khargar (Raigad District) quarantine facility. While majority of the inmates had been crammed into six classrooms, people had also been sleeping in the corridors and passages. What is worse is that for 350 persons, there were only 3 toilets, 7 urinals and one bathing facility without either a bucket or mug. The inmates also had no access to fresh air, as they were mostly locked in, with no place demarcated for them to walk or engage in physical exercise. This stands in contravention to the Maharashtra Jail Manual which provides for atleast one toilet seat for every six prisoners and thorough ventilation among other things.

The shocking state of affairs reflects how the quarantine facility is itself turning into a breeding ground for the spread of the virus amongst prisoners, which is exactly what the facility was supposed to be a safeguard against, and it defeats the objective of decongestion of prisons. Consequently, the decision of the government to declare 36 locations as temporary prisons or quarantine centres under section 7 of the Prisons Act, 1894, instead of releasing inmates is worrying. The constitutional mandate of the prison authorities to ensure the safe custody of all prisoners is being blatantly violated. Additionally, with rules and notifications about these centres not being available in the public domain, and with no regular communication facilities, these temporary jails have become a blackhole where undertrials are being detained indefinitely.

It also became known that persons at this facility at Raigad are being arbitrarily kept beyond the 14-day quarantine period, since Taloja Central jail is unable to accommodate new prisoners. The jail has reportedly already exceeded its capacity by 1,000 prisoners. Eight overcrowded prisons in the State have had to be “locked down”. This does not even remotely indicate the Maharashtra High Powered Committee’s resolve to reduce the jail population by atleast two-thirds in order to implement social distancing norms. Three of the accused under the Bhima Koregaon case – Surendra Gadling, Arun Fereirra and Vernon Gonsalves have been struggling to find space just to keep a copy of their 5000-page chargesheet. The Maharashtra Prison Manual, even ordinarily mandates atleast 3.71 square metres of space for each prisoner in every sleeping barrack. It has now been reported that 158 persons have been found positive in Arthur road jail itself. It leaves little doubt that social distancing guidelines are not being taken seriously and lives of thousands of prisoners in custody are being put at risk.

As per the response filed by the Additional Director General of Police and the Inspector General of Prisons and Correctional Services Maharashtra in the matter PUCL v State of Maharashtra (PIL No. 5/2020) being heard by the High Court of Bombay, four inmates have died in Taloja, Dhule and Yerwada prisons after contracting Covid-19. One of the two inmates from Taloja who died was diabetic. 277 prisoners in this jail have been reported to be suffering from serious illnesses, the highest among all jails. Persons suffering from co-morbidities are known to be more vulnerable against Covid-19. Yet an interim bail plea of 81-year old Varvara Rao lodged at Taloja, who is suffering from multiple ailments was rejected in March end. His present bail plea before the NIA court has been delayed on account of the late submission of medical report by jail authorities. Similarly, Sudha Bhardwaj’s interim bail plea citing her vulnerability on account of diabetes and heart condition along with a history of pulmonary tuberculosis was also rejected end of May. The jail authorities, who first prevented Sudha’s daughter from speaking to her for more than a month, opposed her bail by stating that her condition was “stable”. In the case of 67-year old Gautam Navlakha, though his lawyer was informed by jail authorities that he has been tested for Covid-19 and reported negative, but he later revealed to his family that he was never even tested! It is beyond comprehension why undertrial prisoners, who have been incarcerated solely for their inconvenient political views, are being punished with a virtual death sentence.

While hearing the petition by PUCL and others on 16 June, the Bombay High Court after looking at the report submitted by the Inspector General Prisons had remarked on the sorry state of affairs in jails in Maharashtra. The conditions being reported are a source of grave and urgent concern, and pose an imminent threat – of disease and death – to the undertrials under State custody.

To this end, we request you to kindly ensure that the following measures be

immediately executed:

  1. The request for interim bail or emergency parole may not be opposed for undertrials or convicts who are above 60 years of age and medically vulnerable, irrespective of the offences they are booked under.
  2. Social distancing norms be implemented strictly in accordance with World Health Organisations (WHO) guidelines to avoid further spread of disease inside prisons and all quarantine facilities.
  3. Regular and effective contact – by phone and videoconferencing until physical meetings commence – be ensured between inmates and their families and lawyers.

Signatories:

  1. Alternative Law Forum, Bengaluru
  2. Amnesty International, India
  3. Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab
  4. Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal
  5. Civil Liberties Committee, Andhra Pradesh
  6. Civil Liberties Committee, Telangana
  7. Human Rights Defenders Alert, India
  8. Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, Jammu and Kashmir
  9. National Alliance for People’s Movement, India
  10. People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi
  11. Prisons Forum, Karnataka
  12. Rihai Manch, Uttar Pradesh
  13. South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, Delhi
  14. Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression, India

Death of a political activist in judicial custody

A Report by APDR , West Bengal

Sushanta Shil, a political under-trial prisoner, was jailed in 2011 under alleged robbery and murder. In these nine long years that the case had been dragging in the Sessions Court of Barrackpore Sub-divisional Court (North-24Pargana,West Bengal), the police could produce no evidence against Shil. In between the Calcutta High Court had rejected his bail petition. Despite having a personal set back, Shil remained a committed political activist. In his residential area, he was amiable and was known as a talented musician. Even inside the prison, he was considered as a very popular music teacher among the prison inmates. On the afternoon of Tuesday, 16 th June 2020, we came to know from some sources that Shil had expired though the official communication from the prison authorities and the local police station did not reach his family members till Wednesday 17 th June. Postmortem got over on Thursday 18 th June.
According to the doctors, he suffered from a major stroke, fell and died. We feel that the 67-year-old Shil, who suffered from no significant ailment, expired because of faulty handling of the medical situation by the Dumdum Jail authority. Had the prison authority not sent Shil to the ill-equipped jail hospital and instead had sent him to city hospitals, he could have survived. This medical treatment can be questioned. But what cannot be debated is the inhumane handling of the trial by the police and the judiciary. A political prisoner, arrested under charges that could not be proved by the state in nine years, had to languish in jail and ultimately die there shows the political determination of the state machinery to suppress voices of dissent by one means or the other. We condemn this action of the state and demand that in future no political prisoner should be subjected to such years of imprisonment under trial.

Demand justice for the innocent citizens killed by the police and the military in Assam

Jayanta Borah ,Age 23

On midnight of Sunday, 14thJune, Jayanta Borah, a resident of  Kakodonga village, in Borholla under Titabor subdivision of Jorhat district, was picked up in a joint operation by Indian army’s 249 Field Regiment and the state police. Borah was sleeping on his bed when he was picked up. According to the mother of Jayanta Borah, nothing was recovered from Mr. Borah. A few hours later he was declared dead by the Jorhat Medical College. Police personnel from Borholla said to the reporters that they had no records of Jayanta Borah being linked to extremists and that they were not aware why the army had picked him up. The army, on the other hand, claimed that Borah was picked up in an anti-insurgency operation. When the body of Borah, the son of an ex-serviceman himself, was brought back, the family and the villagers refused to accept it, saying that Borah died as a result of torture by the army and police and demanded action against the perpetrators. Jorhat district Deputy Commissioner  Roshni Aparanji Korati ordered a magisterial inquiry into the death on Monday asking its report to be submitted within ten days.  Army has not given any official statement. Assam Human Rights Commission, taking suo-moto cognizance of the newspaper reports on the death appearing on 16thJune, issued a notice on Wednesday 17thJune, directing Jorhat Upper Assam Division Commissioner to initiate an inquiry into the case. The ex-servicemen association of Titabor has submitted a memorandum to the CM of Assam demanding proper investigation leading to the punishment of the culprits and compensation of at least 50 lakhs to the family. Meanwhile, the mother of the deceased has filed an FIR on the death of Borah. Three policemen have been suspended, and Mr.Atul Bora, the agricultural minister of the state, while visiting the family promised that the case would be tried at a fast track court, and a sum of Rs 6 lakhs and a government job will be given to the family as compensation.

Phanidhar Borah, Age 51

In a separate incident under Jajori police station of Nagaon, a 51 year-old man & father of a girl child, Phanidhar Borah, a village defence party (VDP) secretary died at a hospital in Guwahati after being beaten up by constables Ataur Rahman and Paresh Sharma. The police version of the incident is that the accused constables had some personnel enmity with the deceased. However, eyewitnesses and local people say that VDP secretary Borah was beaten mercilessly just because, while on duty as a VDP person, he flashed a torchlight towards the policemen stationed outside a Covid19 quarantine centre. Local people have reported that Phanidhar Borah was targeted because of the fact that he spoke about the financial irregularities in the construction of a Shiva temple in the police thana campus. The death had led to angry protests by the local people and forced the police to arrest the two constables involved in the beating, and a case has been registered against them under sections 241/20.   

For both instances of death due to state atrocity, Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS) demands that:

  1. A high-level judicial enquiry, with a retired HC judge, be constituted to investigate the cases
  2. The culprits, involved in the killing of two innocent citizens, belonging to state police and army personnel be given exemplary punishment
  3. The family members of both the deceased are granted compensation of at least Rs 50 lakh compensation and a government job for the next of kin.

condolence on loss of (Retd) Justice Hosbet Suresh (1929 – 2020)

COORDNATION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS ORGANISATION(CDRO)

PRESS RELEASE

14TH JUNE, 2020

CDRO would like to express deep condolence on loss of (Retd) Justice Hosbet Suresh (1929 – 2020), we pay our deep respect to this great Rights activist as well as a Justice. After his retirement Justice Hosbet Suresh remained at the forefront of the human rights movement. Justice Suresh, more than 28 years, defended human rights jurisprudence through People’s tribunals and public hearing.

Hosbet Suresh (Retd) Justice had endorsed the call for abolition of death penalty at an All India Convention against Capital Punishment” organised by CDRO in February 2014. In his address he had stated that even the “rarest of rare” doctrine laid down by the Supreme Court in the Bachan Singh case was violative of Article 14 as it was being exercised in an arbitrary manner by judges as per their own discretion. He emphasised that the death sentence was not to be handed out unless it was demonstrated that all alternative options were unquestionably foreclosed. He also reminded that the powers of the President under Article 72 were to be exercised in a manner that promotes life as Article 21 was available to everyone from birth till death. He recommended that since it was the duty of the government to ensure reformation of prisoners, unless there was a negative report from the government that there were no possibilities of reformation, the option of death should not even be considered.

Rights activist throughout the country will always remember his immense contribution in the arena of Rights movement.

(CLC,Telangana),Kranti Chaitanya (CLC, Andhra Pradesh), Prit Pal Singh (AFDR, Punjab), and Tapas Chakraborty (APDR, West Bengal) Coordinators of CDRO.

Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West Bengal; Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Andhra Pradesh); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR TamilNadu); Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); ManabAdhikarSangramSamiti (MASS, Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (JCDR, Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR, Haryana), Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi; Janhastakshep (Delhi)